Oh, what a difference an election makes. When Virginia voters elected Ralph Northam governor and broke the Republican hegemony over the state’s legislature in 2017, they set their state on the path toward a low carbon future. Earlier this year, the governor and the legislature put in place one of the most ambitious environmental plans in the nation. It calls for Virginia to be 100% carbon emissions free by 2045.
That policy will require big changes from the state’s utility companies, especially Dominion Energy, its largest electricity provider. Dominion has long been a laggard when it comes to embracing renewable energy, but now it has no choice but to move forward.
This week, it announced in a press release that it has amended its long term integrated resource plan, which called for 5,586 MW of renewable energy and storage 15 years from now. The new IRP quadruples that goal to a total of 23,700 MW. To get there, Dominion now plans on having 5,100 MW of offshore wind, 15,900 MW of solar, and 2,700 MW of energy storage by 2035.
The company goes out of its way to restate is warm embrace of nuclear and natural gas fired electricity generation. “While the company’s generation fuel mix will change dramatically over the years to come, what will not change is our obligation to provide reliable, around-the-clock energy to our customers.
“All IRP plans assume the re-licensure of the company’s four nuclear units to continue producing 24/7 zero-carbon emissions electricity. Additionally, based on limitations, such as existing battery storage technology and the variable nature of renewables, natural-gas fired generation will continue to play a critical, low emission role in our system for decades to come. Also included in this year’s filing is a significant increase in energy efficiency programs to meet the 5% energy sales reduction target by 2025 set by the VCEA.”
Did you spot the fossil fuel friendly code in that language? Also, the company is signaling that no one better mess with its continued use of nuclear power plants or all bets are off. The company is going along with the new Clean Economy Law, but it is doing so grudgingly at best. Which is why elections matter. Politicians are not all the same. Some envision a sustainable future. Some envision holding on to power and the people be damned. Something to bear in mind next time you vote.
The local chapter of the Sierra Club has reacted cautiously to the Dominion’s announcement, having locked horns with the company many times in the past. It tells WAVY News that Dominion’s plan, which will keep existing gas plants in operation indefinitely, is based on the “assumption that they can be made carbon-neutral or that their emissions can be offset by negative emissions elsewhere.” It also points out the plan calls for an “increased reliance on short-term fracked gas infrastructure.”
Kate Addleson, director of Sierra Club Virginia, said in a statement after the Dominion announcement, “Communities across the Commonwealth are demanding a shift from expensive fossil fuels to affordable clean energy to create jobs and stop polluting our air, water, and climate. Continued reliance on fracked gas to meet electric demand is extremely uneconomical and comes at a real cost to ratepayers and our ability to advance climate solutions. Dirty fossil fuels have no place in Virginia’s clean energy future, especially given that clean, renewable energy resources are incredibly affordable and abundant.”
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